In 2009, the Virginia Tech Hokies went 10-3, defeating Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 37-14 to cap off their solid year.
Yes, I know that Virginia Tech did not win the ACC last season. And yes, I know that the Hokies did not even make the ACC Championship Game.
What will make this year different?
First of all, senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor has more experience. Last season, the Hokie quarterback threw for 2,311 yards and 13 touchdowns. I do not, however, believe Taylor is a great quarterback. He is not even near the top of the ACC.
But, with Ryan Williams at running back, even I could quarterback Virginia Tech and it would make no difference. Williams set the Virginia Tech school record for rushing yards in a single season with 1,655 in 2009. The emerging Hokie star also found the end zone 21 times.
And all of this happened in his freshman season.
The young Hokie running back has had another season to improve and mature, making him one of the biggest weapons in college football. Tyrod Taylor will not need to carry the load on offense. He will simply need to manage the game, limiting turnovers and making mature decisions on the field. The Hokie quarterback does not need to be a playmaker.
This philosophy has worked many times at the NFL level. We have seen teams with quarterbacks managing the game be successful. Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets are two great examples of how well this strategy can work. Both teams let the running game carry the load.
Plus, Frank Beamer always has phenomenal special teams. They will help the Hokies out throughout the season.
Finally, Virginia Tech has a rather favorable schedule.
The Hokies open the season against the Boise State Broncos. The game take place at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., not on the famous blue turf at Boise. If Tech comes away with a victory, that will set the tone for their entire season.
The next few weeks feature home games against James Madison, East Carolina, Central Michigan, Wake Forest, and Duke. All of those should be fairly routine wins for the Hokies. Virginia Tech also has a fairly easy schedule on the road. They take on Boston College and NC State in that stretch, games that should be wins as well.
After those games, the Hokies should be 8-0. Then comes the difficult stretch.
First, Virginia Tech takes on Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are one of the best teams in the ACC. But, the game takes place at Lane Stadium. I will chalk up a win for the Hokies there.
The next two weeks are the only questionable parts of the season.
The Hokies travel to Chapel Hill and Coral Gables to take on North Carolina and Miami. Both teams will be competitive in the ACC. Tech will not escape completely unscathed, but they will emerge with at least one win.
To round out the season, Virginia Tech takes on in-state rival Virginia, who should be no competition.
The Hokies will likely face the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game, which I believe will be a win for them as well. The Hokies are looking at an 11-1 season and an Orange Bowl berth. Although the ACC may be cluttered, I look for Virginia Tech to emerge as the cream of the crop.